“Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.”–Peter De Vries

If you wonder what odd tack I’m on today and why I’m so concerned with novelistic structure in the governing witticism which supplies the title of my post, it’s because I just today finished proofreading my fourth novel, putting it on the eCO (electronic Copyright Office), writing a novel blurb for it to add to the other ones I’ve already put among my pages on this site (where you’ll find it in order), and finally, putting the novel itself on this blogsite.

The title of the novel, Tales of Lightning and of Thunder, may sound like a collection of short stories; instead, it’s an episodic novel centering around the figure of Jason (the main character from classical mythology in the tales of Jason and the Argonauts, Jason and the Golden Fleece, Jason and Medea).  Naturally, it was impossible to cover all of the different angles of the stories told by different classical authors, largely because there are so many writers who write about Jason and so many slightly different versions of the myths.  So, I picked and chose what I wanted to write about after reading around in all my five or six classical guides and dictionaries and retellings of mythology.

Should you be familiar yourself with any of these tales, you may wonder where I got the notions I’ve written about Jason (as a child) and his family.  These notions were in general pure invention up to the point when his uncle begins trying to influence his decisions, and even then I’ve changed the nature of his uncle’s character from that of the myths:  he’s no longer an underhanded villain as much as he is a foolish and misguided man.  And what happens to his sister Magda is a slight reference to the far greated mishap suffered by Helle, the young sister of Phrixus, the two of whom rode on the back of the great ram before it became only the source of the Golden Fleece.  Of course, I’ve created Jason as a sort of American “prince,” a son of young upper middle class parents at the beginning of the novel, and I go on from there, taking down both the Bildungsroman tradition  to a certain extent (see my “blurbs for novels” for an explanation) and the notion of a hero as larger than life, or tragic, or any of the other standard formulas for writing hero characters.  Again, my story has elements of comedy and satire, but not perhaps as much as my other novels.

I hope when you get the chance to read something longer from my site, you’ll have a look at Tales of Lightning and of Thunder, and will perhaps set aside trying to keep up with the elements of myth in their proper places in order simply to read the story as a story; after all, if you can’t enjoy the revised structure which changes it from a myth into a novel with “a beginning, a muddle, and an end,” then I haven’t succeeded in making the story live again in a new incarnation.  But I hope you will decide that I have, and will “get as much mileage” out of reading it as I did out of writing it.  Until tomorrow!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.”–Peter De Vries

  1. A personal remembrance was my Dad buying me an illustrated children’s version of the Iliad and the Odyssey when we had a 6-hour drive to begin a family holiday. I was fascinated by Romans and Ancient Greeks for many years afterwards. Though I am currently fascinated by other countries at the moment, and using them in my stories.

    Mr De Vries makes a good point. There is a craft show my kids watch on TV called ‘Mister Maker’, and there is a portion where he uses his hands to mess up a painting of something. But, they show it in reverse, so it appears he is turning the mess back into the picture. A story is like that, in that the ‘muddle’ comes back together to a (hopefully) logical and satisfying conclusion.

    • Thanks for your bi-topic response. Yes, the illustrated children’s versions of epics and myths really started my affections for those things too. One of my favorite tales is the Aesop’s fable of the satyr who saw a human in the woods and thought he might trap him so as to rob and eat him. When he got up to the human, the man was blowing on his hands in the cold winter weather. The satyr said, “Why are you doing that?” The man said, “I’m warming my hands.” When the satyr had invited the man in to eat soup, the man sat down in front of his soup bowl and the satyr stood behind him, ready to kill him at a moment’s notice. But the man blew on his soup. The satyr was puzzled: “Why are you blowing on your soup? Isn’t it hot enough?” “On the contrary,” the man responded, “I’m cooling my soup.” This made the satyr afraid, and he let the man leave unharmed. Later, he told the other satyrs, “There’s a great danger, possibly, in tangling with a being who can blow hot and cold out of the same mouth.” Anyway, that scrap of Aesop was in the back of one of my illustrated comics about the battle of Troy. I liked all of the comic, though, and think about it from time to time when I’m writing. And the show you mention for children sounds quite thought-provoking too. I think we can rejoin our own wonder and awe in childhood when we see what our children get to view and read. Thanks again for your response.

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